December 10th, 2005


More Thai eye candy...batik

Busy day today, and I tried to blow off doing this entry and going to the movies, but Saturday night in the throes of holiday shopping season there were no parking spots to be found, and I can see Aeon Flux some other time. Tomorrow I'll catch Harry Potter at the matinée.

In addition to sapphires, I had budgeted into my vacation spending at least $100 to buy batiks made by the Ban Kanim women's batik project in scenic Pangnga province. You can read the whole story of the project at the Friends of Thailand - Project Restore page.  Pangnga is the mainland area facing Phuket Island, and it got whacked pretty hard by the tsunami, but being much less of a tourist area, it received much less aid from Europe and the US. This is one place I really wanted to help out.

David Rubin, one of the early Peace Corps Volunteers in Thailand, extended his stay an extra 2 years, married a Thai nurse, and after 35 years in Texas, they retired to Phuket. His passion is to find what small development programs the locals feel the need for, and then he organizes funding and implementation. The Ban Kanim project was one of these.

The original plan was for him to take me out there, but as it turns out his wife was hosting a Thanksgiving party for a bunch of her friends from nursing school (from San Francisco, if I heard it right) so he suggested I hire a driver and find it on my own. He gave me some directions, but there also was information on the FOT web site as well. I asked around at the town of Nai Yang, where I was staying, and found someone from Pangnga with a jeep who offered to take me around all day for the reasonable sum of $50. Gas included.

He knew where Ban Kanim was, he said he had relatives who had gone to the Thung Mapraw School which was on the same road as the batik project, and sure enough about an hour from Phuket we were there. But we didn't see the Batik place. He drove to the town limits, which was about 5 blocks from the school, and asked for directions at a fish stand. The fishmonger woman didn't know exactly where it was, but she said the guys in the house behind her would. And they did. Turns out the center was right across the street from the school, but it's down a steep driveway and not easy to tell from the road that it isn't just another school building (which it probably had been at one time).

The women were happy to see me, and very proud of their wares. They had a lot of T-shirts hanging up, but I was interested in larger pieces. They showed me some stunning pieces big enough to make into a sarong or a tablecloth, for 700 Baht ($17.50) each. I thought that was a little high, but since I was there to help the cause, I didn't try to bargain. I picked out a few pieces, and when they added up the damage, it was only 2200 Baht, about half what I wanted to spend. So I told them to show me more, and they brought out everything they had. There were lots of pieces of stylized Thai babies with top knots, which I thought would be easy to sell to the tourists, but I was kind of sick of that motif - it's all over the place in ads and such. They also had a few pieces of this fat, ugly, toothless black-skinned guy whom I recognized from Balinese and Indonesian folklore. He's truly ugly, and the design is more Indonesian than Thai, so I avoided those pieces. And there was one big piece which was a black background with a whole slew of things that looked like eels or starfish or something, which was just not my idea of beautiful. But they also showed me many gorgeous pieces, and I bought until I was at about $100, and then added some handkerchief-sized ones as well.

Behind the cut are lots of photos,  which I took by clamping the pieces to the baffle in front of my patio door's vertical blinds. The cloth has been folded up inside plastic sleeves in the bottom of my luggage, and I was too lazy to iron them out so you'll see creases. Collapse )